Last Sunday’s gospel was one very special to me and my fellow Spiritans. The text “He sent Me to bring the Good News to the poor…….” (Lk 4: 18-19) is the central one that animates our service. It’s on the first page of our congregation’s founding document, the Spiritan Rule of Life.
Luke continues the story in today’s gospel, the follow-on text from last week’s. One might expect applause for the fine words of Jesus and for what He set out to achieve but no, He is rejected. “Who is this but the carpenter’s son?” / “How can such fine words flow from Him?” And they turn on Him and threaten to kill Him for blasphemy.
This, indeed, is often part of the story of His life. There are times that He is rejected by His own people, notably the religious leaders. Ultimately, HE does not escape as in the end of today’s reading but is killed by them, nailed to a cross. “A prophet is never recognised in his own country” says Jesus.
As followers of Jesus, we can have similar experiences. The final mission in Brazil in which I served was in a place called Cidade Tiradentes on the eastern outskirts of São Paulo city. When I arrived there 400 new apartments had just been added to approximately 1000 already constructed by the government to cater for low-income families. We were 11 on the pastoral team: 4 sisters, 4 seminary students and 3 priests. Three of us took on the task of calling to the new apartments, presenting leaflets to welcome people and presenting information on church activities that were already underway in the area.
There were positive responses to our visits and plenty of cafezinho offered to us. In many apartments, however, we felt the echo of Jesus’ phrase – ‘a prophet is not recognised in her / his own country’. There were frequently valid reasons for not participating but at times it was that feeling of Jesus – that of outright rejection.
Having experienced such reactions, one is acutely aware of the pain far greater for those who give their lives in such circumstances. Jesus, accused of blasphemy in today’s gospel, has that same allegation put to Him at His trial on Good Friday and is condemned to death. Many are those who follow in His footsteps, who pay a similar price. Let us cast from our lives any elements of rejection of others that taints our lives.
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